What is the difference?
Unlike ranges, cooktops and rangetops are standalone stovetops and come in an endless array of designs and styles. Because both stovetops contain many similar features, the terms cooktop and rangetop are often used interchangeably.
So what is the difference?
The cooktop has a refined, more casual look while the rangetop has a heavier, more commercial look. Cooktops are a drop-in appliance, they are set into countertops and are surrounded and supported on all four sides by the countertop. Rangetops are a slide-in appliance and are flanked on the sides and sometimes the back by the countertop. Rangetops are supported by the cabinet, not countertop. The front of the rangetop extends to the front of the cabinetry much like a range would.
Controls on a cooktop rest on top of the appliance making them more visible and keeping them out of the reach of young children.
Controls on a rangetop are in the front of the appliance to providing the convenience of not having to reach over pots and pans in order to adjust the controls. Placing the control knobs on the front of the appliance has the added benefit of freeing up space and maximizing cooking surface available for cooking. This, along with its higher BTU output, makes the rangetop the preferred stovetop for serious cooks.
What types of cooking surfaces are there?
Electric Radiant coils
Electric Radiant Coils utilize a coil element that heats up quickly and cools down in a reasonable time. This technology is used mostly on low-end appliances. Radiant coils are inexpensive but the coils can be difficult to clean.
Electric solid hotplatesElectric solid hotplates utilize a solid metal disk that heats up slowly and cools down even more slowly. Hotplates are the least controllable cooking option on the market. Hotplates do not turn red when hot therefore increasing the risk of a burn. This technology is no longer widely available but can still be found.
Ceramic Glass TopsCeramic Glass Tops utilize radiant coil heating elements and cover them with a ceramic glass. This type of cooktop heats up reasonably fast but cools down slowly rendering it slow to respond to changes in temperature settings. Its smooth surface makes for a clean, polished look. Clean up spills right away as they can become baked onto the ceramic surface.
InductionInduction units heat up cookware via magnetic induction rather than thermal conduction. Magnetic field technology is used to transfer heat to a pan while the cooking surface itself remains relatively cool; essentially turning the base of a ferrous cookware into the heating element. Induction is the most controllable cooking method of all the electric types and boasts quick response to temperature changes normally associated with gas cooking.
Gas units allow for instant heat control and provide visual feedback on how much heat is being applied. They are also more economical to use. Make sure to check whether you have natural gas or propane gas in your home before purchasing a gas cooktop. Some but not all cooktops can be converted from natural gas to propane gas. The cast iron trivets can be tough to clean but the ease of cooking far outweighs the disadvantages of cleaning.